Murali unveils Bukit Batok infrastructure plans, Chee says he wants to 'focus on the campaign'

People's Action Party's (PAP) Murali Pillai (left) and Singapore Democratic Party's (SDP) Chee Soon Juan.
People's Action Party's (PAP) Murali Pillai (left) and Singapore Democratic Party's (SDP) Chee Soon Juan.ST PHOTOS: JAMIE KOH, ONG WEE JIN

SINGAPORE - Lawyer Murali Pillai, the People's Action Party (PAP) candidate for Bukit Batok, on Sunday (April 24) unveiled $1.9 million worth of infrastructure plans for a neighbourhood in the single-member constituency if he were to be elected at the May 7 by-election.

The plans - which include covered walkways, ramps, a jogging track and a small park - come under the Neighbourhood Renewal Programme for the precinct at Blocks 140 to 149, Bukit Batok West Ave 4. Some 640 of the 12,000 households in the seat live in these blocks.

Mr Murali told reporters at an exhibition on these plans on Sunday morning that residents were surveyed late last year on how the neighbourhood can be enhanced.

But the PAP-run Jurong-Clementi Town Council - which currently looks after Bukit Batok - will only be able to carry out these plans should he be elected, he added.

"Let me just say that this plan we are presenting is a plan by the PAP Jurong-Clementi Town Council. So it's really up to our residents.

 
 

"We will only have the mandate to carry on if we are returned at the next by-election. If we don't have the mandate then we won't have the ability to carry on, because we will not form the town council," he said. "That's the rules."

Also at the exhibition on Sunday were Jurong GRC MPs: Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Senior Minister of State for Home Affairs and National Development Desmond Lee, and town council chairman Ang Wei Neng.

Mr Murali's announcement comes two days after his likely opponent at the May 7 by-election, Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) secretary-general Chee Soon Juan, unveiled four social programmes he planned to roll out if he is elected.

The by-election was triggered by the abrupt resignation of PAP MP David Ong on March 12 over an alleged extramarital affair.

Both Mr Murali and Dr Chee almost crossed paths on their walkabouts on Sunday morning, appearing at the same coffee shop barely minutes apart from each other.

When asked for his take on Dr Chee's programmes, Mr Murali would only say: "I've just spoken about the plans I believe Bukit Batok residents can identify with because this came up after a very, very extensive consultation."

He added: "Other plans will be revealed in due course, before Nomination Day. What we are dealing with today are some plans to improve the liveability, to enhance the family environment for our residents."

The SDP last Friday (April 22) promised to roll out four social initiatives for Bukit Batok residents should Dr Chee be elected on May 7.

The programmes, which target a broad swathe of residents from youth to the elderly, will help those who have fallen through the cracks, Dr Chee said, adding that existing social assistance programmes had not gone far enough.

Dr Chee told reporters on Sunday morning: "The whole idea is that we are going to bring the community together to ensure that people here don't just live very atomised lives - when they come back from work they don't just go into their homes, shut the door and that's it."

He vowed that, with Bukit Batok "going to be like our firstborn after a long absence", the SDP will devote the kind of attention of "doting parents and grandparents and uncles and aunties" to the estate.

The SDP has had a presence in the area, with its candidate Kwan Yue Keng winning 44 per cent of the vote in Bukit Batok in 1988. At the next polls just three years later, he lost to the PAP incumbent MP, Dr Ong Chit Chung, by just 858 votes.

That same year, the SDP's Mr Ling How Doong had captured neighbouring Bukit Gombak SMC, winning 51 per cent of the vote against the PAP.

Dr Chee on Sunday declined to be drawn into commenting on Singapore People's Party (SPP) chairman Lina Chiam's comments that the SDP did not seek nor receive permission to include SPP chief Chiam See Tong's image in the newsletter. She had said that Mr Chiam had not endorsed any candidate at the by-election.

The SDP on Saturday (April 23) issued a statement by Dr Wong Wee Nam, who wrote the article beside the photo, clarifying that the image referred to was in The New Democrat's June 2015 issue, where Dr Wong recounted his failed effort in 2010 to bring Mr Chiam back to the SDP. "The SDP was not seeking any endorsement from Mr or Mrs Chiam," Dr Wong, a long-time opposition supporter, added.

Dr Chee said on Sunday: "I just want to be able to focus on this campaign and what we can do for Bukit Batok. Everything else, believe me, is just a distraction."

waltsim@sph.com.sg